Review: The Borgias

Don’t read this book. The only thing worth talking about in The Borgias is that at one point there is literally a bag of dicks. They actually present a bag of 150 bloody dicks. Which is also how I would describe the book.

The Borgias follows the titular family’s quest for power. Father is Rodrigo Borgia; he begins as a cardinal, but with time and much blackmail, he manages to become the pope, calling himself Pope Alexander VI. It’s no question why he chose the name; he thinks himself a great conqueror, and cannot understand it when he doesn’t have complete control over everything. As the pope, he’s got a lot of power, so feeling powerless doesn’t exactly sit well with him. Borgia’s ambitious, and he’s got big plans for his family, intending to form an empire and a legacy with them.

The problem- one of the problems- is that this is a world where the Church’s power is diminishing, and the pope’s authority doesn’t mean too much. There are plenty of naysayers, plenty who do not respect the Church, and plenty who just plain hate the Borgias. And honestly, I’m in the third category. I could not stand this family, and I know we aren’t supposed to- they’re a terrible, power-hungry, incestuous bunch- but without a single person in this book to remotely like or root for or relate to, it made for an incredibly frustrating read.

The Borgias HC 11.12.14The other notable Borgias are Cesare, Giovanni, and Lucrezia, the pope’s children. There’s another child, and the mother is in the picture for a quick second, but these are the other Borgias who matter. Cesare is hot-headed, angry, violent, and just as power-hungry as his father. Giovanni is the favorite, and he revels in that. He prefers the arts to war, and he and Cesare aren’t on good terms, breaking into a fight every time they’re in a scene together. Lucrezia is the pope’s only daughter, and for the daughter of a holy man, she’s easily the most sexualized in the book. It gets old pretty fast. Pretty much everyone in this book is sexual, but Lucrezia is incredibly sexualized, and it’s a difference I’m not sure the creators understand.

The family has enemies on all sides, and they are constantly dealing with one threat or another, all the while scheming to gain more power, or working out how to maintain a firm grip on what power they do possess. This could be an interesting story, but the writers seemed far more eager to focus on what should have been the background stuff.

There’s quite a bit of violence in this book, which is expected. It’s gruesome and often outrageous. It’s as if Jodorowsky kept trying to out-do himself with increasingly over-the-top deaths. I was impressed with some of the things he came up with, but like I said, it’s all gruesome and graphic and not for those averse to blood or violence or dismemberment.

There’s also a lot of sex. When I said a lot, I mean really a lot. It’s bordering on pornography. And the thing is, it’s all very unnecessary. It’s background. Now and then, the sex actually has a place in the story. There are some moments when sex advances the plot or is essential to the story-telling. But for the most part, it’s just sort of there. And a warning to anyone who might be triggered- there’s a decent amount of rape in this, and it’s explicit.

There’s rape, there are orgies, there’s plenty of sex with all combinations of folks, and there is incest. Not once, but twice. Lucrezia gets it on with two different family members, and I won’t say who. It’s gross both times, and whether it advances the plot is debatable. And the incest isn’t even the most ridiculous Lucrezia sex scene in the book; early on, Lucrezia gets into a sword fight with another woman, which turns into a wrestling match, which turns into sex. All of it happens in front of a group of nuns who circle around the moment the women start having sex to cheer them on. It’s utterly absurd, and it’s clearly straight from one of Jodorowsky’s wet dreams.

The story-telling itself wasn’t great either. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and there are many time jumps. Sometimes time jumps are necessary, and sometimes they’re the mark of a lazy writer. Jodorowsky overuses the time jumps.

I wanted to like this book. I like historical fiction, and I guess I hoped this would read a bit like Game of Thrones/ASOIAF (minus the dragons and such). But the more I read, the more I hated this book. I read over 200 pages to tell you all not to pick this up.

The art is fine. I’ll give it that. It’s very detailed.

Overall, I thoroughly disliked this book. Ridiculous plotlines and unsympathetic characters paired with the creators’ creepy- borderline perverted- focus on sex made for a bad read.

Score: 1 / 5

Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky Artist: Milo Manara Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $59.99 Release Date: 11/12/14 Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital